Monday, January 09, 2006

A Biblical Liturgy of Marriage: Part 1

Okay, let's get right to business, following my outline: The Purpose of the Ceremony. Purpose of the Ceremony

        Dear friends and relatives, we have gathered here today before Almighty God to witness and celebrate the joining together of this woman and this man. The covenant of marriage was established by God from the very beginning, starting with Adam and Eve. In Genesis 2:18-24 God declared, “it is not good that a man be alone; I will make him a helper fit for him.” And in an act of divine power and love, God took Eve out of Adam’s side, and for this reason the Scripture says in verse 24 that “a man will leave his father and mother, and be joined to his wife, and they will become one flesh.” Let us pray.         Almighty God of Wonders, our Father, bless us with your presence today. For you have promised us that wherever two or more are together in your name you are there with them, and for that we give you our praise and glory. We ask for your blessing upon Sandy and Nick as they seek to honor you in marriage. As you have in your grace brought them together, sanctify them with the Holy Spirit, that they might have a new heart and mind for their life together. Guide them and be with them always, through Jesus Christ your Son. Amen. Giving of the Bride

  • If parents are living/present: "Mr. and Mrs. [NAME], do you consent to give your daughter in marriage to [GROOM]?
  • If parents are deceased/not present/prefer this: "Who gives this woman to be married?"
  • RESPONSE: "We do." or "Her mother and I."
In this opening to the ceremony, I assert two things: marriage is a covenant, and that the reason for marriage is the seeking of wholeness by a man and a woman. The covenant of marriage gets explained later, in the homily. But I would think it is true that marriage is a search for wholeness in another. It would be very easy for me to start entertaining fanciful theories such as men need their "feminine halves" and vice versa, but then I'd just look ridiculous. But I think the truth of wholeness is that men need their "missing rib," and women need the comforting embrace of the body from which they were taken. Ever notice how much women love hugs? I'd daresay that on some deep, instinctive level women are reminded of a time when they were whole, when they belonged to one flesh. Ever notice how men love it when they find something that was missing? Same concept. A man tends to feel complete when he finds something that was missing. We guys tend to enjoy hugs by our significant others in a similar way that women do--we've found that missing piece of the puzzle and we're reminded of when we had all the pieces together. We (men and women) are seeking to become "one flesh" once again. And God has sovereignly brought together the missing rib and the body from which it was taken. It's amazing how something as simple as a hug can illuminate Scripture. It's not good for us guys to be alone. We in general do not feel fulfilled without that missing rib. I'd expand on that and say it is just as bad for women to be alone. Now, obviously this does not take into account those who are called to singleness; but singleness is not the issue here. Men and women need each other more than they realize, and God has arranged it (dare I say designed?) in such a way that we instinctively seek out each other. That's a beautiful thing, men and women were designed to chase after each other. In the context of Godly relationships, that chase is a wonderful, God-honoring thing. Even relationships that do not end in marriage can give God glory, because we are fulfilling His design by searching for that significant other. Now, the question becomes one of how we fulfill that design within the relationship. Before we go there, I'm going to argue that the roles of marriage should apply to every relationship between a man and a woman, from mere friendship to dating to actual marriage. Especially more so in a dating relationship than in a friendship. This is because I have come to believe that if we truly want to respect and love the opposite sex, then they must be treated as if they were that missing piece. I'm not saying that I treat my female friends with the same degree of love as I give Tricia. Far from it. I love them in a different manner, certainly, but in the abstract they are treated no differently. I'm to love them as Christ loved the church. Maybe that's too high a standard towards which to hold myself, but it makes sense to me. And with that, I close Part 1. Next time we will examine how God's design is fulfilled within the marriage relationship, beginning with the role of the wife. I will leave you with the scripture for this homily: Ephesians 5:22-33
Wives, submit to your own husbands, as to the Lord. For the husband is the head of the wife even as Christ is the head of the church, his body, and is himself its Savior. Now as the church submits to Christ, so also wives should submit in everything to their husbands. Husbands, love your wives, as Christ loved the church and gave himself up for her, that he might sanctify her, having cleansed her by the washing of water with the word, so that he might present the church to himself in splendor, without spot or wrinkle or any such thing, that she might be holy and without blemish. In the same way husbands should love their wives as their own bodies. He who loves his wife loves himself. For no one ever hated his own flesh, but nourishes and cherishes it, just as Christ does the church, because we are members of his body. "Therefore a man shall leave his father and mother and hold fast to his wife, and the two shall become one flesh." This mystery is profound, and I am saying that it refers to Christ and the church. However, let each one of you love his wife as himself, and let the wife see that she respects her husband.

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